Harmony Swingset at Maker Faire 2011

I just finished a weekend at Maker Faire Bay Area 2011.  As we have every year since the beginning, The Exploratorium had one of the largest presences at the booth, bringing out a bunch of activities, artists, exhibit prototypes, and employee’s projects.

This year the asked me to rig my exhibit prototype the Harmony Swingset.  It’s a set of eight swings, each an increasing length.  The length are carefully chosen so the periods of the swings are whole number ratios of each other, making them all harmonics of each other.  When you start all the swings in this set at the same time, the people become pendulum bobs that form waves up and down the line.  The swings are a full octave, harmonically tuned to each other.  By the end of the cycle, they all swing back to the starting line at the same time.

The effect is quite lovely to see, but even more fun to ride on. I estimate about 1,800 people took a ride on the Swingset over the weekend, many of them breaking into applause when they saw the swings come back into line with each other at the end of each cycle.

More images from the Faire to come in a day or two, but for now, here’s some some from the last time I rigged it for one of the Exploratorium’s After Darks last year: